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During the Snowstorm

12.3

Dusty Pride

34

"Should we also invite your cousin to join us?" Yin Guo's mother asked.


"Sure, let's invite them too," she added, turning to Yin Guo.


Yin Guo was in the middle of arranging the fruit platter, unsure whether to put down the knife or keep going. She was a bit slow, and it would take at least another ten minutes to finish cutting and washing all the fruit.


Lin Yi Yang took the fruit knife from her hand and skillfully finished the task in just three minutes. He had done various odd jobs at the dining hall to earn money for his tuition, so this was a piece of cake for him. He could even add a few flashy moves if given a few more minutes.


He turned on the faucet, washed the knife blade, shook off the water droplets, and returned it to Yin Guo.


"Let's go upstairs quickly, don't keep your mom waiting too long."


Yin Guo felt both nervous and amazed and remarked, "You handle things much more efficiently than I do."


In other words, he had experienced more hardships and challenges in life.


With the kitchen door partially closed, Yin Guo whispered, "In my house, my dad listens to my mom, especially when it comes to matters involving me, you know?"


Lin Yi Yang nodded in understanding.


"My mom is reasonable and won't embarrass anyone openly," Yin Guo continued, still concerned, and gave some instructions, "If she brings up the past, just listen and don't argue. My brother said that because of your teacher, she has changed her opinion of you a lot."


"Alright."


"And she actually spoils me a lot, and she hates it when I act cute," Yin Guo whispered again, "I'll assess the situation later, and if things don't seem right, I'll act cute, and you don't have to say anything. Leave any troubles to me."


Lin Yi Yang smiled and replied, "Okay."


"And..." Yin Guo racked her brain, trying to think of something else to say, but her mind went blank because of nervousness. She hesitated and finally said, "Forget it. Let's go upstairs first. My brother is still there."


They opened the kitchen door and walked through the living room.


The living room was now empty.


"What did my sister say to you just now?" Yin Guo saw her sister going upstairs and thought about the few minutes when she wasn't there, "She didn't say anything bad, did she?"


Lin Yi Yang shook his head, "No, we just had a brief conversation."


"You talked to my sister?" she was surprised.


Lin Yi Yang nodded, "Yes, we met once in the past."


"Oh, I see," Yin Guo replied, now understanding. "A friend of a friend, a chance encounter."


As a man, there was no need to go around sharing a woman's unrelated emotional experiences, so he acted as if he didn't know.


Yin Guo nodded, "You two are about the same age."


They had already arrived outside the study room within the time it took for these two sentences.


Before pushing the door, Yin Guo tightly gripped the back of his hand, "Whatever my mom says, it doesn't represent me."


In a soft voice, she added, "In this lifetime, I've chosen you."


To be honest, she was scared.


The only time they had a serious disagreement was during the last meeting with her mother.


The memory of Lin Yi Yang's desolation, his unwillingness to accept defeat, and the look of being suppressed and proud still tugged at her heart. Even though she knew her mother's attitude had changed and her brother was there, as she stood before the door, about to face him, she still felt afraid.


Lin Yi Yang couldn't anticipate that Yin Guo would express her certainty with such words in such an ordinary setting and moment, right outside their study. His emotions were indescribably complex.


She firmly held his hand in this complexity, her words possessing the power to soften anyone's heart...


Lin Yi Yang reciprocated her grasp, but for a moment, he couldn't find the right words to say.


Without hesitation, he took the initiative to push open the study door.


His mother was already seated on the single sofa near the coffee table, while Meng Xiaodong occupied one of the study chairs. Yin Guo seemed to have no other option but to sit with Lin Yi Yang on the spacious couch.


Before taking their seats, she quietly tugged on Lin Yi Yang's shirt, trying to make him sit on the outer side.


She wanted to sit on the inner side, distancing her mother and Lin Yi Yang.


"What's going on?" Her mother saw through her little scheme first. "Let Lin Yi Yang sit beside me."


......


Yin Guo pouted and playfully wrinkled her brow at her mother.

Her mother smiled.


Lin Yi Yang took the inner seat and sat down as instructed. Yin Guo had no choice but to follow suit, placing the fruit platter on the coffee table. "He cut all of these," she said, then added, "Did he do a good job?"


Meng Xiaodong was sipping his tea, and her question made him want to laugh, but he didn't want to show it.


Completely unaware, Yin Guo was like a startled cat, trying to act calm and protective of her precious one behind her. And that question she just asked? It was like holding her precious one with her paws, looking around with vigilance, asking everyone, "Doesn't my precious one look beautiful?"


Meng Xiaodong glanced playfully at Lin Yi Yang and thought to himself, "Look how scared you made my sister."


Lin Yi Yang's eyes also held a playful smile, thinking, "How adorable."


Yin Guo's mom was straightforward and smiled as she asked Lin Yi Yang, "Do you know why Xiaoguo is so nervous?"


"I'm not nervous," Yin Guo immediately denied.


Her mom chuckled again, "Alright, I won't eat him up. Let me have a little chat with him."


Yin Guo smiled and tried to pick up a piece of mango with a toothpick, but it slipped from her hand and fell onto the coffee table with a soft "plop."


Things were getting more and more chaotic as she got busier.

At hand, he handed her a napkin without looking at her but politely addressed Yin Guo's mom, "Auntie, please go ahead."


"Last month, when we first met, and you came to serve tea," her mom said, "I could tell that Xiaoguo wanted to speak up for you."


Yin Guo wiped the table slowly, listening attentively.


"So, honestly, I've been observing you all along, from the moment you applied to join the billiards association to winning the Chinese Open Championship. I can say that for Xiaoguo's sake, I've watched every one of your matches and post-game interviews, including the one where your teacher was present."


(Note: "Serve tea" is a traditional Chinese gesture of respect during formal occasions like meetings with parents or prospective in-laws, showing a willingness to be part of the family.)


That day, when Lin Yi Yang bowed on the tournament ground, it marked a turning point in Yin Guo's mom's impression of him.


Yin Guo's mom paused for a moment, then smiled and said, "I also watched the Nine-Ball U.S. Open."


......


Yin Guo was dumbfounded, looking at her cousin. "Didn't you say you didn't watch it?"


Meng Xiaodong was also surprised.


Only Lin Yi Yang felt that all of this was within his expectations. Sitting in the audience, he had already imagined today's situation from the moment he took the microphone.


Yin Guo held the napkin, with the mango she dropped on the table wrapped inside.


Initially, she wanted to throw it into the trash, but she didn't move.


Lin Yi Yang's words at the New York tournament were undoubtedly romantic to the audience and fans. But wouldn't it expose Meng Xiaodong's words if her mom saw them? Cousin said he was the one who introduced them...


Meng Xiaodong remained quite composed, pouring tea for Yin Guo's mom. "I didn't expect you to watch it," he said calmly.


Yin Guo's mom smiled as she picked up the teacup, "If I hadn't watched it, I wouldn't have known that you kids are all afraid of me."


"Your English at the event was excellent," Yin Guo's mom said, smoothly shifting the topic to his studies. "Studying in the United States must be tough, right?"


Lin Yi Yang naturally continued the conversation, "It's not too bad. Overall, the hardships were worth it."


"Very impressive," Yin Guo's mom sighed, "It's remarkable to achieve all this without much family support."


Finally, she smiled and added, "Before Xiaotian returned, I didn't know much about your studies. He has been with his grandma for a week and couldn't stop talking about you. He mentioned your school and major, and I was delighted to hear about it."


Yin Guo listened with delight, proud of the praise, "Mom, he's really diligent in his studies. In the United States, we can only see each other once or twice weekly, as he's always busy with academics."


Yin Guo's mom deliberately responded with an "Oh." "So, in the United States, is it referring to last year?" she asked.


Yin Guo became alert, realizing she had omitted many details in her earlier remarks. She decided to remain silent, blushing and exchanging eye contact with her mom. "Please don't call me out in front of him... I'll confess and apologize in private later," she thought.


Seeing her daughter's reaction, Yin Guo's mom didn't intend to inquire further in front of everyone. "Alright, Auntie has finished speaking."


Lin Yi Yang, who had been on guard from the beginning, now felt relieved. He proactively picked up a teacup and said, "Thank you for giving me a chance to be reevaluated."


After speaking, he drank the tea in one gulp.


This was the second time he had served tea to Yin Guo's mom.

The situation was completely different from the first time.


Yin Guo's mom nodded, stood up from the sofa, and went to the desk to find a folder. When she returned, she took out a piece of paper.


"It's not exactly official business, but let's chat a bit about the Asian Games," she said, placing the paper in front of the three of them. "Feel free to discuss."


On the paper, there were descriptions of the billiards events at the Asian Games:


Women's events: Six-Red Snooker, Eight-Ball, Nine-Ball, Ten-Ball, and Women's Nine-Ball Team (Three players).


Men's events: Snooker, Eight-Ball, Nine-Ball, Ten-Ball, and Men's Snooker Team (Three players).


There are a total of ten events, five for men and five for women.

Yin Guo's mom explained briefly, "I want to hear your thoughts and plans for registration."


Yin Guo didn't quite understand, "I'll participate in the Nine-Ball and the team event."


"For this Asian Games, each country can have a maximum of two players registered in each billiards event," Yin Guo's mom emphasized.


So that's how it is...


Yin Guo ranked third in the world last year, which is a bit precarious.


"I'll register for the preliminary rounds first and give it my best shot," she replied.


"Besides Nine-Ball, Mom hopes you'll also consider registering for Six-Red Snooker," Yin Guo's mom pointed to the paper, "This event doesn't have many strong players, so I hope you can give it a try."


"Six-Red Snooker?" Yin Guo was puzzled.


Although she learned snooker along with Meng Xiaodong since childhood, it's not something she has focused on.


"Let's discuss that separately," Yin Guo said.


Yin Guo's mom turned to Meng Xiaodong, saying, "I know you only play snooker and don't participate in other billiards events. But the Asian Games are different; the number of medals in the team events is very important."


Meng Xiaodong immediately surrendered, "I understand. I'll register for whichever event you want me to."


"Let's talk about it separately tomorrow," Yin Guo's mom said.

Meng Xiaodong nodded, realizing that the focus of the conversation would be with today's guest.


Finally, she turned her gaze to Lin Yi Yang.


Lin Yi Yang also understood that the focus was on him.


"You may speak," he volunteered.


Yin Guo's mom smiled and said, "Snooker and team events are your main events."


Lin Yi Yang nodded, "Yes, I will register for them."


"You have achieved remarkable results in nine-ball competitions in the United States," Yin Guo's mom continued.

Lin Yi Yang nodded again, "I will also register for the nine-ball event."


"Typically, players would consider both eight-ball and nine-ball," Yin Guo's mom added.


"Sure, I will register for the eight-ball event as well," he replied without hesitation.


"Will you have the energy to also participate in the ten-ball event?" Yin Guo's mom asked him in the end.


......


"I can handle it all," Lin Yi Yang understood the determination behind it, "I'll register for all five events, and if I can make it through the qualifiers, I'll compete in all of them."


Yin Guo finally couldn't hold back and interjected. She felt Lin Yi Yang might end up exhausting himself on the competition field. It might seem like just a few events, but the training volume was significant, and the pressure during competitions was immense, leading to high physical exertion.


Speaking up on behalf of Lin Yi Yang, she said, "What if he became exhausted... and he can't perform well in his main events?"


"It will be up to Lin to decide," Yin Guo's mom replied with a smile.


"Of course, he'll say there's no problem since this is face to face meeting..." Yin Guo muttered, seeking mercy as she looked at her mom. "Even if he's capable, he shouldn't push himself to the limit, right?"


Meng Xiaodong chuckled, thinking to himself - She's grown up now; she can stand up and argue for a man and her own mom.


Mom's smile deepened, "There are only two spots available in each event. He'll have to go through the qualifiers first, and there's no guarantee he'll secure a spot in all of them."


"As long as he participates, he'll definitely secure all the spots," Yin Guo had no doubts.


She still remembered her cousin's assessment of Lin Yi Yang - "As long as he competes, he'll take all the spots."


"He seems to be good at everything he sets his mind to," Yin Guo added with a smile.


......


Everyone chuckled at the lighthearted remark.


Lin Yi Yang patted her knee, signaling that it was no problem.


As Yin Guo looked at him and noticed his nonchalant and unconcerned expression, she felt a bit reassured. However, she still insisted, "Usually, when someone competes in multiple events, there will inevitably be one event where the performance is not as good. You can't blame him for that."


"Of course not," Mom replied with a reassuring smile.


After discussing the Asian Games competition and chatting about some everyday matters, it was already past 10 o'clock. Yin Guo's mother apologized and turned her attention to Lin Yi Yang, "I have many official duties to attend to, so I can't chat for too long today. Please come to our house often. Your uncle just called me and also said to invite you more."


Saying this, Yin Guo's mother stood up, and the others followed suit.


With a smile in her eyes, Yin Guo's mother extended her right hand to Lin Yi Yang, "Congratulations in advance, Lin Yi Yang, the captain of the Chinese billiards team."


......


Yin Guo, Lin Yi Yang, and Meng Xiaodong were stunned. The light in the study fell on him, carrying a warm aura.


If it weren't for the person in front of him saying these words, he would have thought it was a joke.


Just over a month ago, he had returned to China.


Half a month ago, he successfully won the championship of the China Open and joined the Billiards Association, making it to the national team.


Two weeks ago, he suddenly took over Dongxincheng...


And this morning, Jiang Yang informed him that billiards had been selected for the Asian Games.


At ten o'clock in the evening, the news came again, and Lin Yi Yang was appointed the Chinese billiards team captain.


In just three months, he would lead the team to compete, taking China's strongest group of billiards players to challenge various arenas and strive to bring back numerous medals.


Back in the office on the second floor of Dongxincheng, when he was eight years old, and Jiang Yang was fourteen, they would sit in front of the television, watching replay footage from live matches, analyzing each game, and observing the players standing on the podium... It felt like it was just yesterday.


"This was the result of an anonymous vote," Ms. Yin Guo's voice explained, "I just received the news before coming here."


Lin Yi Yang's actions and achievements undoubtedly won over everyone who voted for him.


With full confidence, they believed that the new captain, Lin Yi Yang, would lead the Chinese billiards team into a new and more glorious era.

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